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Gurukulam: A way of life

This article captures expressions of various experiences of Gurukula Vidyarthis to a guest who was visiting them. Vidyarthis compared and contrasted their life between current Gurukulavasam and previous schooling. They recollected many instances which marked a significant difference in their internal state of being. Here is a compiled version presented as an article.


Vatamoolavasinah

For many kids, the transition from a regular school to a Gurukulam is like stepping into a new world. One student compared his old school to a prison, a place where he felt confined to the classroom all day. In stark contrast, the Gurukulam offers a liberating experience. Here, students spend ample time outdoors, embracing nature and the freedom it brings. This shift from a confined space to the open arms of nature is not just a change in location, but a transformation in the way these young minds perceive and interact with the world around them. At Anaadi Dharma Gurukulam, classes happen under a tree and many a time on a tree. Children find it satisfying to be with nature. May it be the traditional Sanskrit and Chanting, or modern sciences like neuroscience, nature serves as the learning space.

Saha Navavatu Saha Nau Bhunaktu

A Vidyarthi recalled how difficult it used to be for him to approach a teacher apart from the class hours. He felt a lot more connected towards Acharya in Gurukulam as they typically live together, learn together, eat together. This is a critical factor in the lives of a Vidyarthi. The Indian tradition always stands for learning by observation. At the Gurukulam, the barriers between teachers and students dissolve. This forms a platform for Vidyarthis to closely observe the Acharyas and learn from their “Achara” (Behaviour). This communal living fosters deeper connections and a better understanding of each other, significantly impacting the students' learning experience and personal growth.



Swaastha Samvadah

One remarkable aspect of Gurukulam life is the approach to health and wellness. Where once a student would be rushed to a doctor for minor illnesses, now they learn to understand the root causes of ailments by applying the principles of Ayurveda and Yoga Shastras. The medicinal remedy is the last and the least resort. Vidyarthis are self-motivated to introspect by themselves and try to understand the cause of various illnesses. Then they discuss their understanding of the principles, their current state of health, and analysis with the Acharyas. Acharyas give their insights to that. Vidyarthis then apply the principles of Ayurveda Shastra like Tridosha (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha), Gurvadi Gunas, etc. This gives a firsthand understanding of their body. This principle understanding is then mapped with the application of yogic concepts like Asana, Pranayama wherein a Vidyarthi manages to understand the physical and vital bodies, Annamaya and Pranamaya Kosha, and bring them to harmony in case of an imbalance. This knowledge reduces their dependency on medicine, teaching them the value of maintaining good health through natural means.

Atmanah Banduh

Many children came to a unanimous conclusion that, in regular schools, time for extracurricular activities is often scarce and here they are able to engage in a diverse kind of activities including studying. One tiny tot expressed joy in being able to do 'many things' as opposed to the singular focus of regular schooling. This reflects the Gurukulam's philosophy of encouraging exploration and multifaceted learning from a young age. A society expects a person to be a Bahushruta (widely read and skilled). The concept of one knowledge, one job, one life is redundant anymore. Life and Society put a person through diverse situations which demand various skills from them. Self-reliance has become the need of the hour. Only when self-reliance is achieved on a micro level, can it then be replicated on a macro level. The Gurukulam atmosphere and routine are designed and maintained in such a manner that it constantly builds self-reliance directly and indirectly. Under Acharyas' guidance, Vidyarthis follow a routine and various components like yoga, and Seva (service), singing, studying, etc. The emphasis is on holistic development, ensuring that education is not just about academics, but about nurturing well-rounded individuals.


Samatvam Yoga Uchyate

Another student shared his journey of personal growth. From being quick to anger and engage in fights, he now finds himself reflecting and changing. This is primarily because Sattva Guna is kept up in the Gurukula. In the Bharatiya tradition, we talk about three major Gunas: The Sattva (State of Harmony and Equilibrium); The Rajas (The state of Passion and Activity); The Tamas (Inactivity and Inertia). The world is a mix of the three Gunas. Depending upon circumstances and Samskaras, the individual reacts to situations in the world. When one is passive and lethargic he is said to be in Tamas. When one is aggressive he is said to be in Rajas and when one is balanced he is said to be in Sattva. Integrating the qualities of Sattva in a child during their Balavastha (Childhood) becomes crucial towards shaping them in their Youvanavastha (Adulthood). Until the Sattva Guna gets integrated in a Vidyarthis, it's important to keep the environment conducive. Unfortunately, the world outside does not provide such a conducive environment. Given the stimuli caused by the Internet and other satellite devices, it is highly difficult to maintain Sattva. The self-aware environment in Gurukulam provides an opportunity for Vidyarthis to give time for introspection and reflection which helps in integrating Sattvic Samskara. This self-awareness and improvement in handling conflicts is a testament to the nurturing environment of the Gurukulam, which focuses on internal growth as much as external knowledge.

Sa Vidya Ya Vimuktaye

Subjects that were once perceived as complex and stressful in regular schools are now approached with enthusiasm and ease in the Gurukulam. Students find joy in learning Ayurveda, Ganita (Mathematics), and Sanskrit. This change in attitude towards learning is not just about the subjects themselves but about the methods and environment in which they are taught. It is more of a mental condition for the Vidyarthis to perceive a subject as easy or difficult. The Gurukulam context presents itself in such a manner that even a complex subject is broken down into simpler tasks which reduces the initial cognitive load of a Vidyarthi. We have noticed that, when such cognitive load is reduced and removed, it gives immense self-confidence in the Vidyarthi to face the subject. The same principle can be applied to any life situations. When life presents itself with a complex situation, all it takes is to break it into smaller tasks and approach them categorically.

Conclusion

The Gurukulam is not just an educational institution; it's a haven for young minds to grow, explore, and flourish. It's a place where education transcends the conventional boundaries of learning and ventures into the realms of personal growth, health awareness, and joyful living. The experiences shared by the students are a testament to the transformative power of this holistic approach to education. In the words of these young learners, the Gurukulam is not just a school – it's a journey towards a fuller, more vibrant life.


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